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Groundbreaking liver transplant procedure announced at Cleveland Clinic

It takes a lot of heart to give a little bit of liver!

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Clinic announced Wednesday that they've successfully completed a rare laparoscopic liver transplant.  It's the first one for the Midwest and only the second operation of its kind in the United States. 

RELATED: Cleveland Clinic performs its first purely laparoscopic living donor surgery for liver transplant

They also introduced us to the two Florida men who participated.

One - the 66-year-old recipient with an irreversible, life threatening liver disease. The other - a 29-year-old living donor.   

Credit: Cleveland Clinic

Amazingly, the liver is the only organ that can regenerate.  

In fact, in the eleven weeks since the operation where a third of his liver was removed, doctors expect today that the man's liver is back to it's original size.

Dr. Choon Hyuck David Kwon, director of Laparoscopic Liver Surgery at Cleveland Clinic's Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute, says after this new method donors have an easier recovery and return to normal life in about half the time

"Usually patients who donate through the open method take about 2 to 3 months," says Dr. Kwon. "For patients who do it laparoscopically, it is reduced to a month or a month and a half."

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Cleveland Clinic says this new procedure is a significant advancement, turning what's usually a major ordeal into a minimally invasive surgery for the donor.  

"The size of the incision is very small," says Dr. Kwon. "We put little holes, and you operate through the little holes."

Through those holes - over six hours - using a rare, new, 3-D flexible scope system, surgeons work through a complex routine that then allows them to remove a portion of the healthy liver through a small abdominal incision. 

"Also another bonus of it is that the incisions that we make is like what we call below the bikini line," says Dr. Kwon. "So actually when you go to the swimming pool all you see are half inch, like five little scars – and that's about it!"

Now it's smaller scars and fewer pills.

Dr. Kwon says the patients require usually half to one third of the amount afterwards.

The 29-year-old told the staff he's not just a liver donor; he's a life donor because he knows if he didn't step forward, the recipient would probably not be alive today.

Credit: Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic hopes the new procedure will encourage more people to step forward as living liver donors.

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